Week 1

Wednesday, May 20

Everyone safely made their way to the airport by Wednesday morning, where we were met by our main CIEE guide, Mase, (mah-sé), an honors student at UCT. After settling into our apartments in the Rondebosch neighborhood, a historically white and coloured (mixed-race) area, we had an orientation session with CIEE's Cape Town director, Quinton. Later in the evening we were treated to an eclectic dinner at Africa Cafe, a restaurant serving food from across the continent. We were joined by Alicia, another CIEE employee, and Joe, the director of CIEE’s Stellenbosch center. There, we got to know everyone a little better over several courses of delicious African dishes and a couple bottles of Pinotage, a local red wine. It was the perfect welcome to our two week stay in South Africa.
View of Table Mountain, steps from our apartments in Rondebosch near the University of Cape Town

Thursday, May 21

Our first full day as a group in Cape Town was spent on a walking tour of the downtown city bowl, which is surrounded by Table Mountain National Park. Led by local guides from Southern Ambitions Africa, Pags and Thembie (tim-bay), we visited a variety of historical sites, including City Hall, the Slave Lodge, Dutch East India Company's Garden, St. Georges Cathedral, Long Street, Green Market Square, concluding with lunch at the Eastern Food Bazaar. Proving what a small world we live in, Eddie ran into a friend from the Higher Ed program at Arizona State. In the evening we had our first academic lecture from Ms. Val Kholer, an educational consultant for primary education teachers. She provided us with an historical overview of primary and secondary education in South Africa. This gave us a better understanding of the challenges facing schools, students, and teachers across the country, both before and after Apartheid. We were able to draw several parallels between South Africa and the United States with relation to access and equity in education across racial and socio-economic lines. Our discussions will help inform our visits to institutions of higher education in thinking about who and what groups have access to higher education and how students are prepared for university studies.
City Hall with Lion's Head Peak in the background

Cecil Rhodes, a divisive figure

Slave memorials and Slave Lodge

Friday, May 22

On Friday we had in informative tour of the South African Parliament in the morning, before embarking on a multi-hour visit to two local townships: Langa and Gugulethu. We were led through Langa by a native of the township, Melisizwe, who provided personal insight into the culture and continual growth of the community in the post-Apartheid years. He began our visit with an historical overview of how townships came to exist during the Apartheid era, when non-whites were forced out of the Cape Town City Center. He explained that even townships were segregated between black and coloured people, oftentimes directly across the road from one another, to inflict a deeper level of resentment between different racial groups. Coloured townships, while not desirable, often had better living conditions and building materials. Blacks were at the bottom of the racial food chain and therefore lived under the worst conditions, a problem that is still apparent today in townships.

Nelson Mandela statue in front of Parliament

Melisizwe also explained about how people of color were categorized between being black or coloured. He taught us about the “pencil test” – this was an arbitrary test where an official would take a pencil, stick it in the hair of the subject, and if it fell through they were considered coloured; if it got stuck, they were considered black. This oftentimes could split up families if some members qualified as coloured and were not allowed to live in their township anymore. Many would live with other family members who were identified as coloured, which led to better educational and socio-economic opportunities. This would cause families to not only split up, but cause resentment within the family amongst members who were viewed as being coloured vs. black.

Melisizwe walked us through the community areas of the township, stopping to say hello to everyone we saw (he claimed it would get home before he did, if he did not acknowledge everyone he knew). We visited the church, which hosts a school and medical center, a sports complex where rugby players get scouted for private high schools and professional leagues, and the community center, where there is a strong focus on supporting local artisans and youth through providing space, materials and opportunities to make a living from their craft. At the cultural center we visited the pottery studio as well as dropped in on rehearsal of a musical trio who were preparing for an upcoming community concert series during the weekend. Melisizwe made sure to walk us up and down residential streets to get a sense of the people who lived there, the variety of living conditions, and also to show us houses of famous South Africans whose roots were in Langa.
Local musicians in Langa
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Pottery makers at a community center

After the part of our tour that showed the positive side of Langa, we visited a more crowded section, where worker men used to live when they were brought in from rural areas. They lived in shared apartments, with the intention of two to three men sharing one room. When Apartheid laws forced the black community into the creation of Langa, families moved into these housing situations and have grown in size, but not space. Melisizwe’s community connections allowed us the very special, moving opportunity to be taken inside one of these spaces where we all crammed into a bedroom. There were six people from our group, Melisizwe, two tour guides from Southern Ambitions Africa, and two hostesses from the family home – eleven people total in the space. Melisizwe explained to us that the room we were in was shared amongst ten people, sleeping on three beds – almost the exact same number we were. It was hard to fathom and was a solemn but incredibly informative and powerful part of our experience.

After visiting the crammed conditions, Melisizwe took us to the “newer” part of Langa, most of which was specifically built prior to the 2010 World Cup. Langa is very close to the airport and is just off the main highway, the N2; Melisizwe pointed out that the newer buildings and houses were built along the highway, to essentially hide the rest of the township and to show how the government is working to “improve” the township. However, the reality of the situation is that in order to build these three new building groups, tons of people were displaced because they were forced to move their shacks to a different area in order to create space for the new buildings. After the buildings were constructed, the government dealt with the issue of who “deserved” to live in these spaces, which in itself becomes a strange issue to deal with. Some of the townhouses/condos were available to take a mortgage on and as a result, were vacant for five years, including during the time of the World Cup! It was a fascinating conversation with Melisizwe and he did an excellent job showing us the efforts being made, while raising questions of access, affordability and motives of the government.

Once we wrapped up in Langa, we jumped in our van and drove to Gugulethu. Upon our arrival, we stopped at a memorial for the Gugulethu Seven – a group comprised of men between the ages of 16 and 23 who were black anti-apartheid activists, that were unarmed, shot and killed on March 3, 1986 by members of the South African Police force. It was at this point that Melisizwe revealed he was a national award-winning poet for a poem he wrote about the Gugulethu Seven, called “A Moment of Silence.” We then listened to him recite this poem, in the place where this tragedy took place, as Friday afternoon rush hour and chaos surrounded us. Melisizwe captured us in that moment and it was perhaps the most powerful, transformational moment of the trip for all of us. We stood in awe and when he was complete, inadvertently shared our own moment of silence. Then, being the jovial guy he is, Melisizwe cracked a joke and took us to our second-to-last stop, a memorial to Amy Biehl, a white American woman who was murdered by an anti-apartheid mob in Gugulethu in 1993. We then concluded our day at a famous local favorite, Mzoli’s Restaurant, where we met Alicia, Quentin and Mase for a platter of meat, to cap off our township experience.
Memorial to the Gugulethu Seven


We were so fortunate to meet Melisizwe as he exposed us to all elements of township life, the positives and the struggles. Though difficult for many of us coming from such relative privilege, it was important for the group to get a greater understanding of how many within South African society live on a daily basis. Melisizwe provided us the opportunity to ask challenging questions and to have a discussion about what he was sharing which helped us better process what we experienced in Langa and Gugulethu.

Graffiti art in Langa
Fluffy, our unofficial guide of Langa

Dinner at Mazola's, a popular township braai (barbecue)

Saturday, May 23
On Saturday we enjoyed a day-long tour of the Cape Peninsula from Cape Town to Cape Point. Angelica, our Columbian-born guide, provided us with a wealth of geographic and historical information about the Peninsula, including the native Khoisan people and early Portuguese explorers, to more recent World War II era battlements. Though cloudy and misty, we still enjoyed a bus ride from Rondebosch through Constantia to Hout Bay and Chapman's Peak, a hike over Cape Point (the most south-western point of Africa), and a visit to a colony of African Penguins at Boulders Beach in Simon’s Town.

Map of Cape Town and the Cape Peninsula
At Cape Point

Cape Point, where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet
Cape Antelope
Penguins at Simon's Town

Sunday, May 24

On our last day of more tourist-oriented activities, we took a cable car to the top of Table Mountain and enjoyed breath-taking views of Cape Town and the entire Cape Peninsula from nearly 3000 feet above the city! After a quick lunch at the Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, we headed down to sea level and took a ferry to Robben Island to visit the infamous Apartheid-era prison where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 out of his 27 years of imprisonment. At the prison, we were guided by a former political prisoner. He shared with us how racial segregation was present in the prison by means of food rations and other provisions, as well as all the separate areas for different levels of offenders. We saw Mandela’s cell and at the end of our tour, heard our guides story about what led his imprisonment on Robben Island, his time in prison, and why he came back to be a guide and tell his story in the present day.

The View of Cape Town from the top of Table Mountain
Obligatory group selfie on Table Mountain
Dassies (close relatives of elephants) on Table Mountain

Our guide at Robben Island, a former political prisoner

Gate to Robben Island Prison

Week 2

Monday, May 25

On Monday we began our trips to the main public universities in and around Cape Town by visiting the University of the Western Cape. Located in the Bellville suburb of Cape Town, UWC was founded in 1960 as an institution for Coloured (mixed race) people. The university has historically identified with the liberation struggle and continues to address social and political issues through research, teaching, and community engagement. Though integrated today, UWC maintains a commitment to marginalized groups.

After a quick tour of campus we met with the Director of Student Support Services who provided an overview of student affairs at UWC as well as members of the Student Representative Council (SRC), who described the role SRCs play within South African universities, in relation to the Higher Education Act of 1997. After lunch with the SRC, we participated in a seminar at the Institute for Post School Studies (IPSS). Colleagues at IPSS described their work in higher education research in South Africa and Africa as a whole. It was enriching to engage with academics who were clearly passionate about advancing higher education in their country.
Main plaza at UWC
UWC Student Union

Tuesday, May 26

Our second university visit was to the University of Cape Town. Located not far from where we are staying in Rondebosch, UCT sits on a large hill at the base of Table Mountain on land donated by Cecil Rhodes. Historically serving the English-speaking white population of South Africa, UCT is the top-ranked university in Africa. A liberal institution in the English tradition, UCT saw many student protests during the apartheid era. However, campus demographics did not change meaningfully until the 1990s.

Today nearly half the student body is non-white. Despite this, racial relations remain tense on campus, with many non-white students reporting feeling unwelcome in the academic environment and arguing that institutional racism still exists. Recent student protests, such as the Rhodes Must Fall campaign have opened a dialogue on campus calling for the transformation and de-colonization of the curriculum and faculty. We were lucky enough that have one of the student leaders of the campaign, Mase, as our guide for the duration of our stay in Cape Town. Her insight into the deeper issues of the Rhodes Must Fall movement and what it meant for other universities across South Africa, added invaluable contributions to our discussions and presentations.

While our visit to UCT was a rather wet one due to Cape Town’s notoriously erratic weather, we still enjoyed a brief tour of campus before two informative lectures on the history of student leadership and current student services on campus.

Jameson Hall on UCT Upper Campus with Devil's Peak in the background
Former site of Rhodes statue at UCT (CJ = Cecil John)
Former shadow of Rhodes

Wednesday, May 27

Our final Cape Town institutional visit was at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology. CPUT is a relatively young university, established in 2005 at the merging of Cape Technikon and Peninsula Technikon, as a response to higher education transformations taking place nationwide that sought to fix imbalances in universities. We visited the Bellville campus, located across the street from UWC and the largest of CPUT’s multiple campuses spread across the region.
New buildings at the CPUT Bellville campus

After a brief tour of the expanding campus, the International Office organized a formal presentation for us from representatives from student services, including student counseling, health services, disability services, and residence life. It was intriguing to hear from our CPUT colleagues about their work with students and how oddly similar their major challenges and projects are to student affairs at many US institutions. Following the CPUT presentations, Dr. Cole spoke briefly about W&M and our work, before starting a Q&A session. We were later treated to lunch with students from the CPUT Student Representative Council as well as our speakers. The Res Life director actually had a W&M connection before we arrived on campus - he met Deb Boykin at a conference in the U.S. only a few months ago!
W&M group with CPUT student services professionals and student leaders. Dr. Cole's Presentation.
US flag rolled out for the "American Delegation"!

Thursday, May 28 - Friday, May 29

On Thursday morning we left Rondebosch for our only excursion outside of Cape Town - a visit to Stellenbosch, a primarily Afrikaans speaking town located in the Cape Winelands, and Stellenbosch University. Afrikaans has long been the language of instruction at Stellenbosch, and the institution historically served the white descendants of the original Dutch settlers. Stellenbosch has a difficult history as the academic home of Apartheid philosophy, a legacy that the campus has worked towards addressing in recent years. Though less vocal than at UCT, student movements have also sought to change the culture at Stellenbosch. Language is a major issue on campus, with classes now required to be offered in both Afrikaans and English.

On Thursday we were given a tour by our CIEE guide, Joe, and met with a variety of campus constituents. We first had a short seminar with professors and doctoral students in the Center for Higher and Adult Education, who gave us an overview of higher educations studies at Stellenbosch. In return, we spoke about our own Higher Education Administration program at W&M as well as our individual research interests. Later we had lunch with representatives from student residential hall councils who provided us insight in the campus student culture, including issues of race, economic privilege, and the struggle of the Afrikaans background in both language and cultural implications, particularly in relation to campus traditions. After lunch, we were given an overview lecture by a Stellenbosch professor on the historical background and modern day policies of Stellenbosch.
Lunch with Stellenbosch students

On Friday morning we met with a representative from the International Office and learned more abut international activities at Stellenbosch, including study abroad, foreign students and scholars, and international partnerships. There was a strong emphasis on relationships with other universities around Africa focusing on economic development. With our final academic portion of the trip concluded, we paid a visit to Solms Delta, a local winery. There we were given a tour of the estate and learned more about the social, political, and economic history of wine-making in the region. Later that evening we enjoyed a fine dining experience not to be forgotten at Tokara Winery, one of South Africa’s most highly rated restaurants. Joe, a dedicated “foodie” made sure we did not leave Stellenbosch hungry!
Joe, giving us a tour of campus
Library, located underneath the main plaza

Solms Delta Wine Estate
Salmon ice cream at Tokara


Saturday, May 30 - Monday, June 1

After returning to Cape Town on Saturday, the group decided to visit Neighbourgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill (where there were no biscuits to be found!), a sprawling weekend art, crafts, and food market in a formally industrial neighborhood of Cape Town. With the rest of the weekend free of scheduled activities, members of the group explored other parts of Cape Town, including the Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens and the V&A Waterfront.

On Monday, as a final group activity, we all participated in a Cape Malay cooking tour of the Bo-Kaap neighborhood. Bo-Kaap is the center of Muslim culture in Cape Town and the home of the area’s Malay population, who are the descendants of former slaves brought to South Africa from other Dutch colonies including Indonesia and Malaysia. The colorful neighborhood is one of the oldest in downtown Cape Town and the unique architectural style is protected by the government from development. After a tour of the area, we were invited to the home of a local woman who instructed us in making Malay chicken curry, samosas, and roti - an indian style flat bread.
To read more about the cooking tour, visit Cooking With Willis to get the recipes and learn about our experience. After making our own large traditional lunch, we packed up and napped before heading to our penultimate meal in Cape Town at The Africa Café, a feat we never thought we would achieve after eating nonstop for two weeks. With live music in the background, we dined on a final round of local delicacies including pinotage wine and ostrich, as well as some other South African specialties. It was an excellent (and delicious) end to what was a very enriching trip for all!

Neighborgoods Market at the Old Biscuit Mill
Table Mountain from the V&A Waterfront
Botanical Gardens
Katie makes new friends

Bo-Kaap Quarter
Folding samosas
Learning proper technique
Group with our instructor
The finished product!